Anne Bradstreet

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Why did Anne Bradstreet consider poetic devices essential in her poetry?

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Anne Bradstreet's poetry is characterized by its technical poetic prowess. That is, Bradstreet's poems do not merely employ one or two poetic devices, but many. Every element of her poetry—from rhyme to meter to metaphor—boasts formal, complex poetic devices. Part of the reason Bradstreet may have considered these so essential to her poetry is the fact that she was a woman writer in an extremely oppressive time.

She remarked in her work and in her personal life on how intelligent women were underestimated and undervalued simply because they were women. Even the men in Bradstreet's family exploited her; her brother-in-law published some of her work without her consent.

Many of these experiences and observations come to a head in "The Author to Her Book." The conceit of the poem revolves around a woman's perspective: a mother speaking to her child. It uses this extended motherly metaphor to explicate the speaker's feelings on having her work—her "child"—thrust into the world in such an incomplete state. In this, and in many other poems, Bradstreet utilized well-established and challenging poetic devices to prove both the poet and the subject as worthy.

In doing this, she not only proved that she was a competent poet but that "women's" subjects were ones worth writing about. The poetic devices were essential because they supported and legitimized the innate womanness of her poetry—both in that they were poems written by a woman and in that her subjects were regularly driven by a woman's point of view.

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We have a lot of records on some poets. Some poets spell out their goals for their poetry in detail, explaining what they are doing and why. In other cases, we have more humble records, such as accounts of the difficulty a poet had capturing an image, or the experience that sparked a poem. With Bradstreet, we don't have this sort of record. She didn't theorize poetry or keep accounts of her struggles with composition. We must therefore work from two lines of argument to answer your question.

The first line of argument is general: how period poets wrote. Colonial poets like Bradstreet were part of a larger Anglo-American context. Colonial poets followed English models of the preceding century. These poets used poetic devices extensively, as did the other colonial poets, including Bradstreet. With this line of argument, you'd conclude by saying Bradstreet felt it was essential to use poetic devices in her poetry because that is what a poet writing in her time did. That's what poetry was. The best-known poets of that time (and the preceding decades) all used rhyme, regular rhythm, metaphor, and allusion.

A second line of argument comes from the evidence in Bradstreet's own work, like "The Author to Her Book." In that poem, she describes the process of writing poetry. Lines like "I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet" work both as metaphors and direct comments on poetry. Those "feet" are the feet a poet might walk on, but also the rhythm of poetry. In this line of reasoning, Bradstreet used poetic devices as the best way to communicate her meaning and create art.

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